Brazil beat stout Italy in game to avoid Spain | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 22.06.2013
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Brazil beat stout Italy in game to avoid Spain

Brazil have kept up their perfect Confederations Cup record, beating Italy 4-2 in the match to avoid a tough semifinal against Spain. In the evening's other match, Mexico beat Japan 2-1 on a Javier Hernandez brace.

Brazil won Group A of the Confederations Cup on Saturday, winning a 4-2 thriller against Italy as the two most successful World Cup teams in the world locked horns. Both sides knew they'd be in the semifinals, but avoiding a match against likely Group B winners Spain was Saturday's grand prize - claimed by the Selecao.

Eliminated Mexico dodged last place in the group, beating Japan 2-1 in the evening's other game.

Brazil's forward Neymar (L) and Italy's defender Ignazio Abate vie during their FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Group A football match, at the Fonte Nova Arena in Salvador, on June 22, 2013. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)

Neymar and Abate traded blows in the first half until the Italian had to go off injured

Brazil nearly scored three times in the opening minute, again coming out of the blocks with gusto on home turf. Giorgio Chiellini and Gianluigi Buffon both saw off the early danger, and the match found a much slower tempo once Italy established themselves in the game.

Dante scores his first at home

The rest of the first half was a tight, sometimes violent affair. Several players, including Brazil's star striker Neymar, found their way into the book - while David Luiz of Brazil and Itay's Ignazio Abate left the field injured.

David Luiz's misfortune helped Bayern Munich central defender Dante. The Brazilian came on as a sub for his fourth cap; moments before the break, he opened the scoring with his first ever goal for his country. Dante was available at the far post to follow up on a shot that Buffon could only parry in Italy's goal, scoring with ease from close in. He may have been fortunate that the offside flag was never raised.

An Italian sub redressed the balance after the break at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, scoring courtesy of an inspired volleyed backheel from Mario Balotelli to set up the shot from close in.

Brazil more clinical late in game

Four minutes later, Neymar won a free kick on the edge of the box and - after the obligatory period of writhing on the ground - jumped up to take it himself. If he was hurt by Christian Maggio, who was booked for the foul, it didn't show.

Neymar cracked the right-footed set piece into the top corner of Buffon's goal - even having the cheek to take on and beat the former world goalie of the year in his own corner of the net, rather than shooting over the wall. The 21-year-old, bound for Barcelona next season, has scored - in some style - in all three of Brazil's Confederations Cup games so far.

Striker Fred put Brazil fimly in the driver's seat after 65 minutes, latching on to a diagonal Marcelo pass, shaking off Chiellini and rifling the ball emphatically into the roof of the net.

Italy pulled one back five minutes later in the strangest circumstances. Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov blew his whistle when Balotelli went down in the Brazil area in a scramble after a corner. As the ref prepared to award the penalty, he saw Chiellini score and simply let the goal stand. Brazil's defenders were furious, seemingly claiming that they had heard the whistle and stopped.

Mexico's forward Javier Hernandez (2-R) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Japan during their FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Group A football match against Mexico, at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte on June 22, 2013. AFP PHOTO / YURI CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

'Chicarito' (number 14) scored both for Mexico

Despite a tense few minutes as Italy sought the equalizer, Fred added his second in the closing minutes to put the game beyond doubt.

Japan head home empty-handed

Japan and Tahiti will likely be the only Confederations Cup teams going home empty handed.

The Asian champions lost 2-1 to Mexico in Saturday's other game, with Manchester United star Javier Hernandez netting both Mexico's goals. Stuttgart forward Shinji Okazaki scored a late goal for the Japanese, but the side were not able to salvage the draw.

On Sunday, Spain play Nigeria and Uruguay face minnows Tahiti in the last group-phase games of the Confederations Cup.